Resource officer

Officer Brett Coy talks with students at Benton High School in 2018.

How quickly we forget.

From Columbine to Stoneman Douglas, school shootings still manage to shock, sadden and outrage a public that’s grown all too accustomed to gun violence. Those are just the extreme tragedies.

Education Week reports six school shootings during the 2020 academic year, resulting in three deaths and four injuries. A total of 25 incidents were reported in the 2019 school year.

But school violence declined in the spring because ... students weren’t in school. March of 2020 was the first March since 2002 without a school shooting in the United States, according to data from the National School Safety Center.

The public seems to have moved on to other things, mostly prominently police reforms following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But somehow the debate evolved in a very short time from banning chokeholds to getting law enforcement officers out of the schools.

Minneapolis, Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Columbia, Missouri, are among the cities where police are being removed from schools, citing concerns that these school resource officers disproportionately target minority students. In Missouri, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter urging districts to remove police and spend the money on social workers and counselors.

It almost seems as if the justifiable anger of Floyd’s death has enabled a wish list of long dormant progressive ideas to get an airing, from which statues and movies should be pulled from circulation to defunding police or pulling them out of schools. In each case, it’s worth asking whether or not this really advances the cause of justice or has unforeseen consequences.

In the case of school resource officers, removing police from schools puts students and teachers at risk in the event of a school shooting. Most active shooter situations are over in 90 seconds. Who do you think will respond in time if an officer is not in the building? Do you know many teachers who are willing to be armed? That’s not what they signed up to do.

Resource officers provide another benefit beyond safety and security. In many schools, police get to know students and serve as mentors. If the goal is to break down barriers between police and young people (especially minorities), it would seem that the elimination of this positive interaction is the last thing you should want to do.

Sometimes, it’s temping to write one of those mealy-mouthed editorials that says, “well, so and so says this and the other side believes in something completely different. We kind of see it both ways.”

This is not one of those editorials. We see no redeeming value in pulling armed officers out of schools, and we fear that the schools that do so will come to regret that decision.